Ron Artest—aka Metta World Peace—has just been suspended seven games for his blatant elbow to James Harden's head. Somewhere, both David Stern and Stu Jackson think that to be an appropriate punishment for his flagrant disregard for his fellow competitors.
It's not. It's far from it.
Harden is already one of the first to be subject to the revised NBA guidelines regarding concussions, which is certainly a good thing, but completely changes the Oklahoma City Thunder. Harden is a vital piece of that team and, even when he comes back, may not be the same player he was.
World Peace, meanwhile, is suspended for seven games and that's it. He comes back to a team currently ranked third in the West and slated to face off against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers have one remaining regular-season game and, assuming the first-round series has the Lakers winning 4-2, that's the rest of the suspension right there.
This is a player at the center of the Malice at the Palace, a role that cost him 86 games and the rest of the 2004-2005 season. Sure, he's made great strides to change, starting with his name to Metta World Peace, and on-court demeanor. He even sold his championship ring and donated the money to charity.
Anyone that watches the video of his elbow, though, knows that was intended to land, and you could see the malice behind it. World Peace even had the audacity afterwards to take to Twitter and do some damage control, trying to play the victim.
What's sad though is that's it's hard to discern who made the bigger mistake—World Peace or the NBA.
The NFL is in the throes of the Saints bounty scandal and Roger Goodell has brought the hammer down on coaches and the GM. Players are next. World Peace deliberately goes for the head with his elbow (what else will line up with a player's elbow who's that tall?) and he gets suspended for essentially a playoff series.
Why didn't the NBA suspend him for the entire playoffs? This is a player with a history of losing his cool, regardless of strides made to the contrary. The NBA could have sent a message, saying it's serious about player safety and roughneck actions like those won't be tolerated.
Instead, the NBA decided to give him what amounts to a slap on the wrist in exchange for an elbow to the head. That's sending the message that in the NBA, hard fouls are still OK, but not wearing a suit on the sideline isn't.
It is, after all, all about image.